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AGRICULTURE is considered one of the main drivers of economic growth in the Philippines. In the 70s, the agriculture industry’s contribution to the Philippine economy was almost 30% but by 2016, the percentage had dropped to 9.65%. World Bank figures paint a dim picture of the future of the agriculture industry, further exacerbated by the aging farmer population at an average of 57-59 years old.

Farming has lost its appeal, especially among the youth, as farmers receive earnings of around Php 10,000 to 15,000 per harvest and the hard labor and high production cost it entails. With the increasingly cheap food imports, the recurring damages caused by yearly floods and droughts, and the woeful lack of advancement in technology, the Filipino farmer and agriculture industry are forced to into crisis mode.

“Today, most farmers do not have bank accounts or access to basic financial services. It’s about time that we reach out to the farmers and fishermen of the Philippines and give them a boost with technology. Financial inclusion will help the livelihood of farmers and fishermen and will also help economic development,” said Justo Ortiz, Chairman of UnionBank and Blockchain Association of the Philippines.

TechUp Pilipinas, a consortium of tech companies and advocates spearheaded by UnionBank, is determined to provide digital transformation to those who are not traditionally given access to new technology and financial inclusion, such as the agriculture industry, in the hope of elevating the sectors to achieve their true potential.

“With TechUp Pilipinas and our partners, I’m very proud to be standing with the group of tech leaders and advocates who are driving change and are passionate about leading our agriculture industry into digital transformation all the way to the grassroots,” shared Amor Maclang, Co-convenor of TechUp Pilipinas.

In line with this commitment, TechUp Pilipinas has brought together the very minds who aim to challenge and even reverse the negative trend in the growth of the agriculture industry in the Philippines through the TechUp Pilipinas Agri Summit and UnionBank ‘s <U:Hack> Hackathon held last August 25-26 at Events @ Enderun, Azuela Cove, Davao City.

This momentous event featured technology experts and thought leaders, including Mon Duarte, Senior Vice President of UnionBank, who shared the bank’s vision of financial inclusion for the agriculture industry; Clint Hassan, Director for Information and Communications Technology at the Department of Agriculture, who discussed how to help the agri community through technology; Ann Cuisia, the Founder and CEO of TraXion, who shared blockchain use cases in Cagayan de Oro and Leyte; Nico Gonzales, the Director of Marketing and Sales of Xlog, who discussed the critical role of logistics in agriculture; Mario Salazar, Founder and Chief Technical and Product Officer of Acudeen Technologies, who spoke on taking a bet with agribusinesses where others have turned away; and Jayjay Viray, Founder of Agrigrocer, who shared how her business has been able to bring farm to table through technology.

Tech advocate and Co-convenor of TechUp Pilipinas, Amor Maclang, moderated a panel discussion which included Captain Ronald Go, the President Emeritus of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industries; Eduardo Descalsota, Jr., the Techpreneurship Hub Manager of Ateneo de Davao University; and Donna Lina of logistics giant, Air21.

By bringing together partners such as UnionBank, professionals, students, and stakeholders in various disciplines, TechUp Pilipinas continues to challenge the tech community to help reverse the trend of decline in the agriculture industry through digital transformation and financial inclusion.

“We acknowledge that the issues in the agricultural sector cannot be solved by one company or one person. That’s why, when it comes to financial inclusion and digital transformation, partnerships are key. TechUp Agri is a way for us to bring together innovators, stakeholders, government, and tech solution providers to create solutions to the most immediate problems in the industry,” said Mon Duarte, Senior Vice President of UnionBank.

For her part, Ann Cuisia, CEO of TraXion shared blockchain use cases in Cagayan de Oro and Leyte. She believes that blockchain for transaction management is inevitable. “We have started doing this already here in Mindanao through partnering with a large plantation in Bukidnon. We are excited to bring financial freedom and control to the farmers in the Mindanao region,” said Cuisia.

UnionBank also organized a two-day hackathon as part of their <U:Hack> series which challenges developers to identify problems within the agriculture industry and find tech-based solutions for the issues. Winners received a cash prize and an opportunity to present their ideas to a panel of judges who could help develop their hackathon ideas.

“We want to encourage the youth to become involved in creating innovations for this aging industry through technology, and by doing so, make it possible for younger generations to view this industry as a profitable one now and in the future,” said Michelle Rubio, Director of Human Resources at UnionBank.

The TechUp Agri series of events includes conferences, hackathons, and a pitchfest in Davao, Iloilo, and Manila leading up to the ASEAN Agri Summit in October 2018.

For more information on TechUp Pilipinas, its digital transformation advocacy, and future events, please contact [email protected]

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